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Palestine | International | Global Justice and Anti-Capitalism | LGBTI / Queer

queer activists disrupt "Stand With Us" IPride, refuse to be a propaganda tool for Israel
by Queer Activists
Thursday Jun 18th, 2009 3:44 PM
On June 11, a group of queer activists from Israel (backed by Palestinian-Israeli LGBTQI co-operative preparation) came to protest the cynical use of gay rights by a right wing American group called “Stand with Us” (SWU). The activists disrupted an event called I-Pride, organized by SWU, exploiting queer issues in order to advance and support Israel’s existence as an apartheid state and its occupation over Palestinians. The queer activists have also pointed out SWU collaboration with homophobic organizations such as Christians United For Israel, and homophobic individuals such as Gary Bauer and John Hagee who has stated in the past that Hurricane Katrina happened for the city’s “sinful homosexual rally.” SWU’s presentations of all Palestinians as killers, and Islam as the enemy of the west, were also denounced by the activists in the event, and SWU campaign of defamation against, and pressure to exempt, academics who are critical of Israel.
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At the event panelists and speakers preferred to focus on liberal issues inside Israel and showed total disregard for human rights violations by Israel. They presented the gay Palestinian community as suffering mostly from the Palestinian society ( not from Israel’s brutal occupation) and as being in need of a western salvation embodied in Israel’s apartheid regime.

Haneen Maikey, an organizer for Al-Qaws ("Rainbow") - for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society, has commented that “the patronizing and arrogant attitude towards the Palestinan LGBT community, the use of our struggle and speaking in our name are not new phonomena. What is worrying is the easiness in which a right wing and racist pro-Israeli agenda is presented as a celebration pride and rights which is designed to present Israel (in collaboration with local gay Israeli organizations) as an oasis of liberalism and tolerance. This is a cynical use of gay issues for political gain, as human rights violations that are committed by Israel hurts all Palestinians-regardless of gender and sexual preference.”

Inna Michaeli, a member of Coalition of Women for Peace, and a feminist lesbian activist stated “I’m not surprised that our struggle for gender and sexual freedom is used as a propaganda tool at the hands of radical right wing groups from America. What is left to ask is where is the shame of gay organizations in Israel who claim to speak in our name, and whether from a total silence on human rights violations, they are moving now to a complete co-operation with the American radical right.”

During the I-Pride event the queer activists distributed leaflets, gave interviews to the media, and raised disturbing questions that were responded by even more disturbing answers from the panel, composed of the Israeli gay hegemony- gay Zionist men and the organizers of the event- straight Zionists who are interested in Anti-Arab propaganda.

The event that concentrated on civil marriages and child adoption, and on the equal treatment that gay and lesbians receive in the occupation army, caused one of the queer activists to ask “how come that in the lecture about the history of the gay community, the no. 1 'achievement' this year of gay people serving in the Israeli military was forgotten, namely the murder of 140 LGBT people in Gaza at operation Cast Lead (statistically speaking according to the relative portion of LGBT people in the Palestinians community) ? The question did not receive any answer.

Another member asked “given the oppression of Palestinians by the state of Israel, gay and straight, how would the panelists describe solidarity work with LGBT Palestinians, assuming that they are part of any solidarity work?” The answer given by Mike Hamel, Chairman of the Israeli LGBT association Ha-Aguda, was that he and Ha-Aguda are trying to “save” Palestinian gay people by helping them receive political asylum in Israel, and the reason for the LGBT Palestinian oppression is the Hamas government (obviously, not the Israeli occupation). The patronizing attitude of Hamel, as if LGBT Palestinians need him to save them (and have no political representation and politics of their own ), was directed to appeal to the western ears of his audience, who may accept the racist picture drawn for them.

Another activist asked “how come Palestinian organizations, Al-Qaws and Aswat, or Palestinian LGBT people, are not taking part in this event and panel?” The question has caused one of the I-Pride organizers to grab the microphone and say that it is because gay Palestinian fear to be seen in front of TV cameras. “That’s a lie!” one of the activists shouted back. Then one panelist (the only woman on the panel) who was actually rather supportive of the queer activists agenda articulated the reason as she sees it: “there is a Palestinian boycott of the Israeli society by Palestinians, and in addition to that, Palestinians would not feel comfortable sitting in the same room where the Star of David with the rainbow colors is displayed". The I-Pride organizer version is known to be misleading. Invitations to Palestinian LGBT activists were not accepted because they were considered a cynical use of the gay Palestinian community as a propaganda tool for the state of Israel.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Michael Levin
Friday Jun 19th, 2009 3:36 PM

iPride: Stand With Us’ Pro-Israel Gay Fraud
Richard Silverstein
Tikun Olam
June 11th, 2009
http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2009/06/11/ipride-stand-with-us-pro\
-israel-gay-fraud/

Stand With Us is the new Chabad. The difference is that while Chabad inveigles
secular Jews to return to their religion, SWU evangelizes a pro-Israel message
to Jewish gays [ http://standwithus.org/app/iNews/view_n.asp?ID=1063 ] otherwise
ignorant on the subject. For those not in the know, SWU is a militantly
pro-Israel propaganda group here in the U.S. A member of the board of its local
Seattle chapter sent me an e-mail saying I should be publicly spanked for my
views. And this guy is also a board member of my synagogue, and a social worker
at the local Jewish old age home, if you can believe it!

The Jerusalem Post features a mind-boggling story [
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1244371033880&pagename=JPost%2FJPArti\
cle%2FShowFull ] about a new SWU program tied to Israel’s Gay Pride rally which
will bring thousands of Jews from abroad to mingle with Israel’s gay community.
Roz Rothstein and her fellow SWU Politburo members must’ve thought: “Hey, what
better time to convert some of those ignorant, sexually-starved Galut gays to
pro-Israelism than this??” Out of this came iPride [ http://www.ipride-tlv.org/
], which is meant to join the notion of gay pride with pro-Israel pride.

As part of the campaign, SWU is taking a page from the Aipac playbook, bringing
15 key gay opinion-molders to Israel for a round of indoctrination in the guise
of studying Israel’s gay culture:

A group of prominent gay opinion-shapers from around the world are to visit
Israel to grapple with the country’s sexuality issues on a five-day seminar
centering around Tel Aviv’s gay pride parade, scheduled for Friday.

iPride, a project created by international Israel advocacy organization
Stand With Us, will begin on Wednesday and focus on showing participants a side
to Israel that does not revolve around “conflict” in the traditional military
sense.

Instead, the group will hear from speakers discussing the issue of sexuality
within Israeli institutions such as government, the IDF and Israeli film, and
discover more about Israel’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)
community.

The event will bring together around 15 magazine editors, reporters,
academics and activists from Harvard, Berlin, the UK, Spain and Italy, including
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy presenter Brian Kelly. Speakers at the seminar
will include influential figures from Israel’s LGBT community, such as Meretz MK
Nitzan Horowitz and movie producer and Kochav Nolad (”A Star is Born”) TV judge
Gal Uchovsky.

The idea is to improve Israel’s image across the globe, according to Noa
Meir, coordinator of iPride.

In addition to the gay Israel mission, SWU has created a fellowship program to
groom Israeli leaders of tomorrow to be mouthpieces in the campaign on behalf of
Israel’s image at home and abroad:

Meir is participating in the Stand With Us fellowship program, which
recruits 20 people on the Tel Aviv University campus and 150 students from
around Israel in an effort to groom the country’s future leaders.

Why is SWU doing this? Because they truly want to paint Israel as a shining
example of western liberalism and sexual tolerance? Maybe, though I’ve never
before known SWU to take any role in issues of gay rights. I think rather, there
is a more sinister motive that goes a lot farther in explaining the group’s
motivation.

These gay pro-Israel Manchurian Candidates will
not merely speak nicely of Israel, they will also, at key junctures, help Israel
advance its policy agenda abroad. A perfect example is the current campaign to
smear Iranian democracy in the run up to tomorrow’s presidential election. The
Israeli foreign ministry is staging mock executions of women and gays out side
Iranian embassies in order to point out that the country is a sham democracy and
absolutely medieval compared to the west. All this helps Israel soften public
sentiment for war. Two key constituencies Israel seeks to draw on board are gays
and feminists who they’d love to see leading these demonstrations.

So the SWU project is perfectly timed to that end. Another thing should be
pointed out here. SWU, as with other pro-Israel lobbying groups like the Israel
Project and Aipac, is not simply a movement of good-hearted volunteers dedicated
to Israel. It is a group of professional propagandists whose agenda is closely
coordinated with the Israeli diplomatic, military and intelligence communities.

To give you an idea how they fudge when it comes to their true mission, here is
what they write at the iPride website about “who we are:”

iPride is an Israeli project under the auspices of StandWithUS - an
international, non-profit organization that promotes a better understanding of
Israel, through examination of diverse issues.

The StandWithUs fellowship gives Israeli students the opportunity to be
active in areas that are close to their hearts, and promote social activism on
various levels.

This is rhetoric meant to pull the wool over the eyes of unsuspecting Jewish
gays unschooled in the ways of hasbara. It’s precisely the same as the Chabadnik
who stops you on Venice Beach and asks you if you’ve laid tefillin that day.
They begin with the soft pitch. Later they get to the hard stuff.

iPride supposedly doesn’t touch the hard stuff (has v’halilah) like the
Israeli-Arab conflict. Where is the need? They can program that once they’ve
reeled you in as a convert:

Although the event deliberately avoids the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the
idea for the project was partly inspired by reactions to Operation Cast Lead -
specifically one incident in San Francisco which saw a gay group identifying
with the Palestinian cause and publicly calling to “free the gays in Israel.”

“We know that gays around the world are liberal usually and they tend to
identify with the Palestinians,” explained Meir, “and we find it a bit ironic
because you can’t really be gay in the Palestinian territories.”

Meir’s gonna have to tell that to the tens of thousands of gay Palestinians.
Tell me: just what the hell does this guy know about Palestinians, gay or
otherwise? Gornisht, that’s what.

Let’s close with this delightful paean to the fraudulent dream of Israeli
multiculturalism:

“We’re hoping to show that Israel is a liberal country, a multicultural,
pluralistic country,” emphasized Meir. “That is a side of Israel we are very
proud of and that we think should be shown around the world.

“Unfortunately it’s a side that doesn’t get enough attention… As far as a
lot of people are concerned, Israel is Gaza and the West Bank and tanks, and
they don’t see the beautiful culture and the liberal side.”

Let me ask one itty-bitty question: how can Jewish gays be truly free at the
expense of 20% of the inhabitants who are even less free than they? Not to
mention the 700,000 expelled in 1948? Can gays celebrate their alleged freedom
to be themselves when millions of other Israelis and Palestinians are
disenfranchised? I hope everyone reading this will ponder Michael Levin’s
masterful poster above.
_____
[
http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2009/06/11/ipride-stand-with-us-pro\
-israel-gay-fraud/ ]